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Mental toll on flood victims, DAs need to be faster, road works urgent, potentially more rain by Aug

Jul 17, 2022

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman took some time out from her tour of flood-affected areas to give the Post an overview of what she is seeing out there in the Hawkesbury, following her visits along with Federal ministers, and it’s not a pretty picture.

 

Assistant Minister for Defence, Matt Thistlethwaite – centre – with MP Templeman, senior ADF officers, and police at Windsor police station where the Hawkesbury Emergency Centre is based…

 

“There’s just so much damage,” Ms Templeman reports. “I’m seeing a lot more pain this time and less what we might call resilience, as people are just worn down.”

 

“For me, this latest flood feels like it has had the biggest impact on people of any recent flood we’ve had.”

 

“It’s not even just that more people appear to have been affected. People who were spared last time have now felt the pain of having water inundation into their homes, but people have also suffered much higher water levels than they had previously.”

 

And she says it is crucial repairs to roads and riverbanks –some of which are still hanging over from the 2021 floods – are carried out quickly.

 

“There is real urgency to do that, particularly given there are forecasts of heavy rains between August and October from the Bureau of Meteorology,” she says.

 

Huge amounts of sand have been washed up by flooding across roads and land around the St Albans area…

 

In its latest outlook published last week – July 14 – the weather bureau said there’s likely to be more rainfall than average from August to October virtually everywhere but the very west of the country.

 

And on Sunday – July 17 – Warragamba Dam was still at 100% full.

 

“I understand the despair among residents and landowners who are still affected from the damage of the 2021 floods, and they need to be prioritised so they can move forward from the those 2021 floods,” Ms Templeman told the Post.

 

“Many are still stuck, trying to recover in limbo from those 2021 floods.”

 

She says it is imperative the Development Application (DA) process is accelerated so landowners can repair riverbanks. This is something Cornwallis landowners have been asking Hawkesbury Council for but they were told they still needed to go through the lengthy and costly DA process – and that’s a position of the State government.

 

“In 2021 the state government committed to a more streamlined DA process for landowners to be able to do mitigation and repairs and yet nothing has actually come forth that would allow landowners to get that work happening,” says Ms Templeman.

 

The Settlers Arms at St Albans…

 

“There is an incredibly urgent need for that to happen, so landowners can take action.

 

“And there were Federal commitments from the previous [Coalition] government for funding to be made available but it is not clear where that funding has gone and whether it is actually available to landowners, so that is an ongoing issue that we’re trying to get answers on.”

 

She pointed to the devastation for many in St Albans and Lower Macdonald as just one example of the massive clean-up required, where a large amount of sand has washed into people’s homes, their properties and onto the roads.

 

“The other thing I have noticed this time is the mental toll that this is taking.”

 

“There are a lot of people who had just finished the repairs from the previous flood and they’ve seen all that work washed away and the thought of now going through it all again with very little financial assistance at this point and none of their own savings left, it’s quite overwhelming for a lot of people.

 

“For the first time I have had people talk to me about wanting to have some sort of voluntary buy-back option [for their homes]. The view is if this is going to keep on happening they just can’t keep doing it, and they are really mindful, they don’t want to sell their homes for somebody else to inherit the problem.

 

Flood damage to property and equipment at St Albans RFS…

 

“I think one of the most heartbreaking conversations I had was with someone whose home has been inundated multiple times in this and the last flood and they are in a very flood-prone area and their family was talking about selling and moving somewhere else, and one of the children in the family said, if we do that we will have to come back and help the new owners because they’re going to get flooded after us and we’ll need to help them.

 

“And this is a young child, and that’s really reflecting there’s a whole bunch of kids who have lived through multiple floods and really recognise the toll it’s taking on their family.”

 

Ms Templeman said those affected by the floods need additional support from every level of government.

 

In the last week she brought several Federal government ministers to the Hawkesbury to see the damage for themselves, including the Prime Minister who made a brief visit while the floods were still on, and last week Emergency Management Minister Senator Murray Watt met with turf farmers and vegetable growers at Pitt Town Bottoms.

 

“It was important for Minister Watt – who is also the agriculture minister – to hear from them about what they’re facing and for him to see what it looks like when you’re a turf farmer and you’ve been inundated,” the MP said.

 

Turf farmers from Cornwallis were also at that meeting to help explain how they are facing what every other turf farmer is facing but also to outline the additional massive problems at Cornwallis with the inability of water to properly drain off their land now, given a failure by Council and the State government to repair damaged drainage from last year.

 

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt – left – with MP Templeman listens to Hawkesbury’s flood affected turf and vegetable farmers…

“It’s really clear along our riverbanks that they weren’t mitigated and stabilised after the 2021 floods, and after the last floods it’s now even worse and there is a massive job. The big projects like Cornwallis, unless you see the damage there, it is beyond comprehension.”

 

Federal local government minister Kristy McBain met with Ms Templeman and Mayor Patrick Conolly via Zoom to talk through the issues faced by the Council as they grapple with a range of repairs.

 

Minister McBain is a former mayor and has worked through no less than seven natural disasters, so not surprisingly, says Ms Templeman, she, “has good understanding of what Hawkesbury Council faces. She will be meeting with state local government ministers, to ensure federal support can be offered through them”.

 

So far, Hawkesbury Council has been promised an initial $1m from Federal funds to help ensure infrastructure repairs – including to roads – get priority and support, and Ms Templeman says that is only the beginning of financial support.

 

“We are dealing not just with the effects of one flood but it’s the cumulative affects. The Minister is paying close attention and she has asked Council to inform me of the things needed and I will be referring those directly to her.”

 

Ms Templeman said there is also an urgent need for businesses indirectly impacted to have support too.

 

“There are businesses whose turnover has been affected.”

 

She said as an example, a Hawkesbury sole-trader, a plumber who she’d talked with, had lost work because he couldn’t travel during the bridge closures.

 

“He knows it will be slow for some jobs to come back on line. At the same time he has provided free help for people who just cannot afford to get things done. So, small businesses, tradies, the self-employed, many are really struggling because they fall between the funding cracks.”

 

The MP has been gathering case studies and then sharing them with State and Federal ministers, and with Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston.

 

“So collectively we can be pushing for those small businesses to get support and help them stay afloat.

 

“We are facing a cumulative affect and I will be arguing sole businesses are doing it tough.”

 

There are Federal and State funding available for all those affected by the floods through the Disaster Recovery Payment and Disaster Recovery Allowance., as well as a small business grant too and primary industry grants, and also grants for not-for-profit organisations and sporting groups.

 

Apply through Services NSW here for a range of grants.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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